I was looking through farm pictures today as I put together a presentation for Friday’s Celebrating Rural Ranching Women event in Maple Creek. I found these goldies from 2012 when we had a PILE of snow. We bale graze our cattle through the winter months. These bales of hay are left where they dropped from the baler, and only wrapped a couple of times with Sisal twine to hold them together. During the winter months, cattle are rotated through 80 acre paddocks of bales. We LOVE bale grazing – it not only saves a ton of work and labour, but it also leaves valuable soil nutrients (from manure and left over hay) out in the field where it belongs, rather than in the yard.
You can see how hard the lead cows had to work every time they were moved into a new field. Those brave lead cows would strike a path to the next bale, and the rest of the herd would follow in her footsteps. Most years we leave the calves on the cows through to February, but not that year! The cows had to work hard enough to get their meals, they did not need the added stress of producing milk for a calf as well.
We also supplemented the cows with grain that year to keep them in good body shape. Just because mother nature throws you a curve-ball, doesn’t mean your animals should go hungry or lose weight.
This winter has been especially mild, and we have less than a foot of snow. This would be the perfect bale grazing, or even swath grazing, year. Mother nature (again) had different plans for us. Because our spring and early summer were so dry, a large portion of our feed was oats that were silaged. This mean that (again) we weaned early. If you are hauling feed, it is much easier to feed calves in the yard. The cows have spent some time bale grazing, but we have also hauled silage out to them.
I am glad we didn’t have to haul the feed out in 2012… We had to push a new road through the snow each time we went out to the cows!
Looking back reminds me yet again that just when you think you have things figured out on the farm, just when you think you have the perfect system down pat, Mother Nature, markets or just life will bring you down a notch!